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Emotional Jump-starts

One of the things I’ve struggled slightly with when writing this blog is the personal / professional balance.  As a reader I’m not overly interested in reading what a blogger ate for breakfast, or the exact number of words he or she has managed to write that day, but equally I like to know the person behind the words.  The unique quality of blogging is that to some degree, it’s a journal.  Unedited.  From the heart.

And whilst, as those of you who regularly read my blog will know, I’m a big advocate of keeping your personal life separate from your writing – letting it influence sentiments and scenarios, but not completely take over, so that fiction remains fiction and not an autobiography – when it comes to blogging, the lines are blurred.  The rules more fluid.

Just flicking through the offerings of the Word Press ‘writing’ tab is a good enough example of this.  Some bloggers are historians, writing blog posts like school assignments.  Others literally use their blog as a computerized diary, including information of little interest to anyone other than their closes friends.

And yet, in my experience, my most successful posts on The Elementary Circle have been those which have come from the heart.  Tales of my background – My Crazy Unorthodox Life – my aspirations as a writer – J.K Raises the Bar – my career ‘solutions’ as I endeavour to become a career author, – Don’t Forget Your Day Job – and even my internal debate as to whether I can ‘officially’ call myself an author still – So Am I an Author Yet? 

So, with all that in mind, I HAD planned to write a post about ‘Emotional Jump-starts’.  The various triggers that have kicked me into action with my writing over the years.  The things which have driven me to put pen to paper with definite passion.  Ironically one of the biggest jump starts I had in writing was a really big break-up.  I say ironic, because yesterday I was dumped!  And that’s where the good old personal/ professional line comes in, because it’s not something I particularly want to talk about, and yet in some ways it’s very pertinent to this post.

I’m a Comfort Writer.  When I’m upset, I WRITE! It’s a pattern I know, and understand, and to be honest, it’s the very reason I’m typing right now.  I kept a diary from the age of 14, and whenever I was upset or feeling down about something, I would write.  Over the years, I kept the diaries almost daily, right up to the time I began to write Flicker in Australia.  And when my journal-keeping disappeared into insignificance, it was my fiction which took it’s place – using up all my desire to write each day, but remaining my emotional outlet.

And whilst obviously a journal is hugely different to fiction, and it wouldn’t be fair to anyone to simply narrate your life day by day, for some reason it’s actually more cathartic to write about other people’s fictitious lives than it is to wallow in your own sad tales.

Writing is my chocolate.  My Bridget Jones bowlful of ice-cream.  It’s how I forget my troubles, and gain perspective on issues, whether my characters are facing those very same issues as I am, or whether I’m writing about something completely unrelated.  Writing is another world, a world where you’re not a girlfriend, or an ex-girlfriend, or a troubled employee, crap best-friend, or over-burdened mother.  It’s a world where you hold all the reigns.  You’re in total control, and you can completely craft the outcomes without having to encounter the variables of other people.

Writing isn’t just a retreat for heartbreak.  It’s an escape from grief, and from whatever else causes your pain.  Or rather, that’s what I’ve realised writing has become for me.  I tend to write something each day.  Not because I’m forcing myself to write (Check out my views on that here! – ‘Falling into the Forced Writing Trap’) but because for me it’s a necessary wind-down to the day – whether that writing is on this blog, or a book, or editing, or even just planning out a story.  But the thing I’ve noticed is that my writing behaviour changes according to my emotional state of mind.  And if I’m stressed or upset about something, not only does the writing help me organise my own personal headspace, but the calibre of what I produce is genuinely better.

‘Flicker’ was a book written from heartbreak, and grief – so much so that I spent a LONG time editting out the more journalistic sections of the novel, until I felt happy that I had skimmed out the ‘Charly’ elements from the book, and that Felicity Firestone, the main character, wasn’t simply an image of myself.

However, ‘The Dream Navigator’, my second book, and the one which is currently with publishers, was formed from a different passionate reaction.  Those of you who have been reading my blog for some time will know that I had a different agent at PFD before I was represented by the lovely Lucy Dundas, and that other agent actually asked me to sideline Flicker after about 6 months of editing, the most major edit being cutting the word count from 180,000 words down to 90,000.  I’m sure any writers reading can imagine my sentiments, when I was told to forget a book which I had spent a year and a half writing and perfecting.

I was pretty bloody angry!  And it was that anger which bred determination, and that determination which saw me put pen to paper and create the first chapter of The Dream Navigator – the section of my writing which has probably received the most critical acclaim.

So, what have I learnt from all of this (apart from that my choice in boyfriends apparently sucks?!) …

I’ve learnt that I’m an emotional writer.  And that when I’m feeling down, or angry, or passionate about something, I ought to put pen to paper.  Because the things I create will not only make me feel ten times better, but they also might turn out to be pretty damn good 🙂

What about you?  What gets you writing?  What makes your writing good?  And what turns it into something you’ll simply delete it the next time you read it?

As ever, please comment below, and feel free to tell me what you think on Twitter – http://twitter.com/#!/CC_Lester

C-C xxx

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Feature on Elli Writes

Thanks to journalist, author, and fellow blogger Liz Carlton for this lovely feature on her blog ‘Elli Writes‘.

And wow! – only just saw the front page of her blog, and I’m everywhere … thank you so much Liz, I feel very honoured!!

C-C xx

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Back on the Wagon!

So I’m back writing a novel again 🙂

I came up with the premise of Mercury’s Child some time back, but have had various excuses for not properly starting it … up until now!  I moved back to the UK almost a month ago, and still haven’t got the green light to start my new job, so I figure I should be making use of my time by writing.  I’ve recently written a couple of competition entries, however due to the rules, I can’t ‘publish’ them until I know whether I’ve won or not.  However THIS I can ‘publish’ … it’s the first chapter of Mercury’s Child, hot off the press ….

I’ll post it as a separate blog post so that it’s easier to find in later months, but for now, let me give you a brief outline of the book.

Mercury’s Child is a science fiction novel.  The main character, Halley MacFadden is just eleven years old, however I think the book will still remain in the young adult genre, like most of my books – though possibly the younger end – 13-15 as opposed to the 16+ age group that Flicker and TDN were written for.

I don’t want to reveal too much at this point, so all I will say is sit back, have a read, and let me know what you think!

Cheers,

C-C xx

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The Writing Game

The more I get to grips with WordPress and the world of the writer blogger, the more exciting stuff I find.

So first of all, last night I discovered The 3-Day Novel Contest.  Now, to be honest, I’m not sure how long any novel I wrote in three days would be … I have an awful tendency to read and re-read stuff until I think it’s word-perfect, which could make for a rather short three day project, but I do really like the idea.

I’ve also found a lot of Flash Fiction on the web, which is another concept I didn’t know a great deal about until very recently.  I guess the post I wrote yesterday ‘The Time I Dated a Vampire’ could be classed as flash fiction, as it’s an 850 word snippet of what you imagine to be a far bigger story?  On my unemployed hunt for writing competitions, I DID discover two flash fiction competitions – the Unbound Press Flash Fiction Competition,  (entries have to be less than 500 words), and the Lightship Flash Fiction Competition (entries have to be less than 600 words) if anyone’s interested.

My little foray into Writing Prompts yesterday opened my eyes to a whole web of such prompts – which I think is pretty cool and exciting 🙂 I feel a bit like I’m back in English class at school.

And my most recent find is this blog post HERE.  In the post on Indigo Spider, the anonymous blogger introduced me to two new writing ideas I hadn’t come across before.

1) Picture prompts – what a brilliant idea!  Especially when you’re feeling a bit ‘blocked’.  You could literally do a random image search on google, and make yourself write a fictional piece based on whatever random picture the search churns up!

2) Chain writing!  I LOVE this idea, especially as I’m beginning to understand what a great community of fellow writers there are on WordPress.  Why not take part in a big game together?!  Do you remember that game we played as children, where you folded a piece of paper in four, and then passed it around a circle.  The first person drew the head, then the next person drew the arms, then the third person drew the legs, and then the last person drew the feet, and then you unravelled the paper to see the finished result.

How about doing that with writing?  A group of writers agree to play.  Each writes the first 500 words of a story, any story, and then all the writers switch stories, and continue someone else’s story for another 500 word.  And so  on …..

This is definitely a game that my inner child would enjoy playing!

In fact, if anyone fancies it, we could schedule one big group writing session???

Post a comment below if you fancy joining in, and if we get enough writers interested …. (I’m thinking more than 4 to make the stories a decent length), then we can designate some deadlines for each section of the story!

C-C xx

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The Time I Dated A Vampire (Writing Prompt)

Following on from my post ‘I’m Bored’ I decided to spend an hour writing a response to Maria Kelly’s Writing Prompt ‘Twilight – Re-Vamped’.  Let me know what you think, write your own response and share the link, or give me another writing task!

C-C xx

The Prompt – ‘Write a strong female character in a vampire situation.’


The Time I Dated A Vampire

 

“So you’re telling me you’re dead?’  I frowned up at my new boyfriend.  We’d been seeing each other just two months when he decided to drop that particular bombshell on me.

I’ll admit, there had been signs that something wasn’t quite right.  The cultural references for a start…  I mean, surely everyone watched Rainbow and Wackaday when they were kids?  But I guess if you were one hundred years-old in the eighties, children’s television wouldn’t have been so much of a priority.

And I did notice how cold he seemed whenever we shared a bed … but some people are just cold, right?

But I guess that’s the distinction.  Some people are cold.  All the living dead are freezing!

‘Well yes,’ Thom nods awkwardly.

‘You’re dead!

‘I think you’re missing the point … I’m trying to explain here.’

‘Well, no Thom, not really, because I’m pretty sure you’re telling me that you’ve already died.  That you’re a walking corpse!  That you’ve roamed this earth for hundreds of years without aging … ’

‘Yes, but …’

‘No Thom, no buts!  This is well and truly fucked up!’

‘But … but we can work around it …’

I stared up at him in disbelief.  ‘Work around it?  How exactly does one ‘work around’ the fact that their boyfriend is dead?!  I’m pretty sure the normal way of ‘working around’ it would be grief counselling … though given the current circumstances, I don’t think that would really work!’

‘Amy, I just think you’re over-reacting a little bit!’

‘Over-reacting!’ I almost shrieked.  ‘I’m sorry, but how exactly was I meant to take this news?’

‘Well, all the other girls ….’

I shook my head, angry blood boiling beneath my skin.  Only my skin.

‘Now is not the time to fill me in on how many human partners you’ve had!’

‘But …’

‘But what Thom?  How well did all these hundreds of previous relationships go for you?  I’d put a fairly large bet on the fact that none of them ended up well! Let me guess … they all died Thom?  They all got really wrinkly and old, while you remained young and hot … or should I say cold … and then they died!  So go on then  Thom … what you could possibly have to offer me?’

Thom frowned at me, no longer clueless and instead, getting increasingly pissed off with me.  ‘Offer you?  Amy, I’m the same person I was yesterday!’

And the decade before that, and the century before that …  I remember thinking!

He continued ‘Can you really say you didn’t at least have some suspicion?  It’s not really like I’m telling you out of the blue!’

Pissed off wasn’t the right tone to take with me at that point.  I mean, for god’s sake, the man had just told me he was a corpse!

‘Oh, I’m sorry Thom … I forgot that was meant to be top of my boyfriend check-list … up there with ‘does he seem to be a nice guy?’ … ‘Does he look like he could be a member of the walking dead?’

‘Could you please stop calling me that?  I’m a vampire!’

‘Oh yes of course.  Please draw attention away from the fact that you’re dead, and focus on your blood-sucking pastime instead!’

It seemed fighting pissed off with more pissed off actually worked, because suddenly Thom began to back down.

‘Amy, please, just calm down for a second.  It’s not as black and white as it seems.  Please just let me explain my lifestyle to you …’

I gritted my teeth.  ‘Look, Thom … I understand it can’t be as simplistic as the movies make out … but really, please elaborate on how you see this working?  Because from my perspective it seems like you’re asking me to give up the future I’ve always imagined – having children, growing old with the person I love – just so that you can masquerade as a ‘normal person ‘and get a bit of affection along the way.  Thom, I’m sorry, but it’s not fair on me! And that’s not even touching upon the whole blood drinking thing!’

‘So, what?  That’s it then?  I open my heart to you … and you’re dumping me for being honest?’  If he’d been able to cry, I’m pretty sure there would have been tears in his eyes at this point.

‘No Thom, I’m not dumping you for being honest.  I’m dumping you for lying to me in the first place!  You knew how much I’d been messed around in the past.  How important honesty was to me … How adamant I was that I wouldn’t get close to another guy again unless I trusted him totally.  And you took that trust and threw it in my face!  I’m sorry, but ‘not mentioning you’re a vampire’ isn’t an omission.  It’s lying about the fact that you’re human!  And of all the lies to found a relationship on, that’s pretty much the worst one going.’

And that was the time I dumped a vampire.

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In the Spirit of Competition …

Ok, so I have a couple of excuses as to why I’ve been AWOL from the world of blogging for the past two weeks.  The first is that I’m finally back in England, after two and a half years travelling, so things are a little ‘abnormal’ to say the least.  The second is that, after two and a half years of dragging my poor old MacBook around the world, I figured it was time it got a bit of TLC, so my laptop has been in the Apple Store for the past fortnight.

But my main excuse is that my writing has been concentrated elsewhere.  Because I’m revelling in the phenomenon that is being a citizen of the country you are living in (quite a novelty for me) … and entering competitions!

Now, I know the world is for the most part computerised, however you’ll notice in the small print of most competitions, that even if they appear to be simply online, they normally require you to be a citizen or resident of the country where the competition originated.  This is especially prevalent in magazine competitions, where even if a magazine is global, like Marie Claire, the competitions are only local.

So now that I’m back HOME, I’ve been making the most of being British and entering a ton of writing competitions!!!

I’ve talked in the past about using writing exercises, particularly when you’re feeling a bit stuck.  I have to admit to having been brainstorming an idea for a new book for the past month, and feeling like not all the pieces have clicked in place yet.  So it’s great to have a diversion which exercises my good old ‘writing muscle’. 

My two favourites this past week have been the Grazia writing competition, called ‘The Deadline’, and a scheme by Marie Claire to pair young aspiring women up with successful role models in their chosen business.

The first competition centred around a pre-written paragraph, by the writer Kate Mosse, which you were required to transform into an entire first chapter.  The paragraph was very different to my normal style of writing, and required me to think out of the box I’ve become most comfortable in, which was a great challenge, and something which kept me scribbling for a good couple of days.

The second competition is of a different nature.  The Inspire & Mentor scheme could provide me with a best-selling author as a mentor, which is pretty damn exciting!  The scheme is an extension of the successful Prince’s Trust scheme which aims to help underprivileged women survive and succeed in life. However readers of the magazine Marie Claire can also benefit from the guidance of a professional mentor.

As a young woman still very much trying to find her feet in the world of writing and publishing, I think initiatives like this one are brilliant.

Right … I’m off to find some more fun competitions 😉 And speaking of competitions, if you haven’t already, check out yesterday’s post about Elli Write’s April Competition.

Cheers,

C-C xxx

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Falling into the ‘Forced Writing Trap’

As I trawl through the offerings of other ‘writer bloggers’ on WordPress, I regularly come across two personal niggles.

The first is people blogging simply to tell the world EITHER that they are feeling totally uninspired, and can’t write a single word, OR to report exactly how inspired they are feeling, by telling us all EXACTLY how many words/pages they have written that day.

And that is ALL they write in a blog post!

Really?  Is this the kind of stuff you want to waste your words on?  There are only 24 hours in a day … both yours, and mine … please don’t waste them with blog posts like that!  Even if I were your Mum I wouldn’t want to know this kind of stuff!

I’d rather read an opinion, a paragraph of pose, a poem …  Think about it – your blog-post has a short shelf life on the WordPress ‘Recently Posted’ Writing Page. Don’t put off future readers by catching their eye with a mundane post like that! They won’t ever come back!  Complaints about writer’s block, or self-congratulatory back-patting over a couple of paragraphs of writing should be reserved for the private sphere.

Either get a journal … or if you still insist on addressing the blogosphere, then turn it into something positive. Write about how you cure your personal writer’s block, or what helps inspire you on ‘good writing days’ …  At least a reader can take something from those kinds of posts.

My second niggle is what I like to call the  ‘Forced Writing Trap’.

While I understand that every now and again writers may need a metaphorical kick up the bum to write, I’m really against setting a specific goal of words to write each day.

Like any author, I go through periods of hyper-creativity, and phases of zero-creativity. I have days where I stare at a page and am happy to complete a full sentence, and other days where I’m forced to stop simply because my lap-top battery has run out, or it’s 4am and I’m meant to be up again in three hours.

But rather than reprimand myself for not making a word quota, or seeing a super-creative day as meaning I don’t have to write for another three day, I prefer to simply roll with the punches, and treat each day as it comes.

Writing a novel shouldn’t be a series of daily battles, but one long war.  Sometimes that means you don’t write for a week, and other times it means all you do for three days is hack away at your laptop.

I can understand that committing to a ‘5000 words per day’ regime may discipline you to write … I just think that where a novel is concerned, if you insist on writing 5000, or however many, words a day, every day, you are often going to produce 5000 words of crap!

On my zero-creativity days, if I were to force my novel forward 5000 words, what I’d most probably be doing would be setting my book back at least 2 days of re-writing.

Instead, on those days when I sit down at the computer, and can’t see a path through the metaphorical trees, I find other tasks.  I might do administrative chores linked to my book – like numbering and heading pages, or keeping track of the developing stories or character profiles.  Or if there’s a particular topic the book requires me to know about, I might do some research.  Another positive thing I often do when I’m not feeling creative enough to write, is to edit.  I look back over previous chapters, and sometimes simply re-reading a chapter or two will get me into the correct frame to continue with the story.

And if that still doesn’t work … I don’t push it.  I read something else, or heaven forbid … DON’T DO ANYTHING!  Writing shouldn’t be a chore.  We do it because we love it.  It’s the future career we’ve chosen for ourselves … and for the first couple of years at least, we’ve chosen it not for monetary recompense, but for a creative outlet.  So why would you force that outlet?  Shouldn’t it be fun?  And shouldn’t you be proud of what you write?

If I read 5000 words I’ve written, I want to feel proud of them.  I want them to be polished and perfect, and the best 5000 words I could have used to describe that particular scene.  I don’t simply want them to be five thousand random words … because I NEEDED the word count reader to say ‘5000’.

Just to clarify, this isn’t me complaining about those of you blogging everyday.  As I’ve explained before, in The Author, The Journalist and The Blogger I address fiction writing very differently to blog writing, and don’t have any problem with people resolving to write a blog post every day, because the blogs stand alone each day, and a bad day of blogging won’t wreck a whole story.  However, saying that, I will obviously object if all your ‘blog every day’ does is tell me how many words you have or haven’t written that day 😉

On a personal note – I signed up to Script Frenzy … which some might see as a ‘Forced Writing Trap’ – 100 words of a script in a month.  But with Script Frenzy, I simply see it as a task you could give yourself a month to complete.  An inspiration, rather than a set word count governing your day.  And in that light, I have to admit to taking it rather liberally so far … In the absence of Final Draft, I’ve been struggling to form my words into an acceptable script format.  As a result, this month, whenever I’ve felt the need to write, I’ve found myself turning to blog posts instead of the script.  But rather than punishing myself for not fulfilling my ‘Script Frenzy’ commitment, I’m simply happy to be creating something legible.

Should I tell you how many words I wrote today now? 😉

C-C xxx

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